Personal Essay

Write a personal essay in which you discuss what you think your life would be like if you were unable to use any form of social media for a whole year.

Our SPHE teacher recently asked us to take out our phones and check our average screen time. I duly obliged, happy to get access to my phone during class. I scrolled through the phone and found the screen time under the digital well-being app and was shocked to discover that I spend on average 10 hours and 43 minutes a day on my phone.

Three hours on TikTok, two hours on Instagram, two hours on Twitter,  two hours on Google Chrome, an hour on Facebook and forty three minutes on Google Classroom. The initial shock at how much time I was spending on my phone got worse when I realised that I sleep for ten hours a day, which means that I spend less than four hours a day without my phone, which confused my teacher as I’m supposed to be ‘paying attention’ in class for six hours a day!

This got me thinking, what would my life be like if I went a whole year without social media? It’s a scary prospect to be honest as most of my friends spend their time discussing the latest trends on instagram, the funniest videos on TikTok and we communicate via messenger on Facebook. But when I think about how much time I’m spending online, I really would like to see what life would be like without it.

Obviously the initial shock would be difficult to deal with, but I think that there would definitely be positives to be considered as well. 

First things first, I wouldn’t have to see what Gary and Adam have eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and feel bad about all the junk food I eat. The two boys are really good friends but they’ve gone on a crazy fitness regime and for some reason they think we need to see their dinners, which basically consist of kale, broccoli, topped with some kale and a side of broccoli. It’s pretty depressing when you’re finishing off your second Big Mac and you click in and see that they’re eating a mountain of vegetables after their latest gym workout. Not depressing enough to make me stop and go exercise but it does ruin a good meal.

And of course, you can’t go on a new fad diet and exercise regime unless you show the fruits of your labour to all your followers. I’ve lost count of the times where I’m sitting back on my recliner, feet up devouring a ‘share’ bag of Doritos all by myself and I see the boys standing in front of the mirror showing off their six packs and pumped up biceps. Like, do I really need to be reminded of how lazy and unfit I am every time I lift the phone? Imagine how happy I would be if I didn’t have to see that for a year! I’d be able to sit back with my crisps with not a care in the world. It really does highlight how stupid social media is. I know for a fact that people who pose in front of the mirror for a selfie are holding their breath and taking a picture of the ‘perfect’ look. That snapshot is not reality but it still makes me and millions more like me, feel bad about how we look and makes us feel guilty for indulging in junk food every now and then. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to eat and relax and not worry about how we look?

With the Leaving Cert on the horizon and the points race in full flow, you’d think that now would be the perfect time to kick into gear and get studying. But how can you start learning off Shakespeare quotes when there’s endless videos of cats doing funny tricks or strangers handing sums of cash to people in need? TikTok is probably the most addictive app ever created and it is crazy when I think that I can spend up to four hours a day watching random thirty second clips, while also recording myself doing the stupidest things imaginable in the hope of ‘going viral.’ It’s safe to say that my dreams of being a physiotherapist would be better served with learning off my biology and English but who knows what wonders lie behind the alluring swipe of the phone, which unleashes a new video, which is sure to be hilarious or life-changing. If I didn’t use TikTok for a whole year, I’m absolutely certain that my grades would improve and perhaps my mood too. The irony of social media is that as we look at all the ‘perfect’ images of people, we become more and more drained by looking at a screen and therefore less likely to get up and get active. Scrolling on your phone at night is scientifically proven to make your sleep less beneficial so a year without social media would definitely make me more energetic and healthier. 

Spending time on Twitter is like constantly stepping inside a dangerous dungeon but for some reason I just find myself checking out the latest controversial tweet. Some of the replies you see on this platform are horrendous, with no care for people’s feelings or emotions. A DUP politician recently posted a picture of her dog, to which one user replied, “nice dog, is he a replacement for your dead disabled son?” This type of response is beyond horrific but this is what now passes as acceptable content. Seeing these types of comments every day desensitises us to the harsh world we’ve now created. When Elon Musk is prepared to pay €44 billion for Twitter, it’s clear just how profitable it is, but it is also highly dangerous and has a severe impact on people’s mental health. The case of Caroline Flack typifies what I mean. A year without Twitter would shield me from the crass and brutal nature of social media where anonymous trolls can say whatever they please, with little to no censorship.

Time spent with my family has definitely decreased over the years. When I was younger, I would spend loads of time in the backyard playing football with my three brothers. There were plenty of fights and arguments but there were a lot of good times and a lot of memories made as we played out FA Cup Finals and World Cup Finals, pretending to be Ronaldo and Messi or Rooney and Lampard. 

Now when I think about how we spend our time together, each of us are in our rooms either on our phones or playing video games. There are weeks in the house where we barely see one another and everyone is so busy on their phones that even when we are in the same room, it’s impossible to have a decent conversation. 

If I were to remove myself from social media for a whole year, I would like to think that I would spend a lot more time talking and socialising with my family and friends. When I think of my family, it saddens me that the most prominent memories are from over ten years ago and that we’ve not been making the same memories because we are stuck on our phones. A whole year without social media would be a big help in getting my family together again.

It is said that technology is a great servant but a terrible master and the same quote applies to social media. It is useful if used in the correct way but nowadays it seems that social media is using us and we seem to be powerless to stop it. I think a year without social media would be wonderful, in fact I’m just going to put a message on Twitter here telling everyone my plans. (Only joking)

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